How to Get Started as an Online Freelance Writer

It takes certain qualities to be a freelance writer, but if you’ve determined that you have what it takes, the next step is getting started. Here are a few practical and critical things to do as you break into a competitive, oversaturated field:

  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help
  • Constantly build your portfolio
  • Finding clients is a priority
  • Determine a niche and perfect it
  • Don’t expect overnight success

Ask for Help

Think about your writing preferences and expertise. Determine your style and niche and then reach out to individuals or clubs for guidance, tips, and even hookups to potential clients and gigs. A simple Google search will point you to such resources. Don’t forget to tap into your social media connections as well. Networking is an invaluable tool in business that you certainly should leverage in freelance writing.

How is Your Portfolio Looking?

So the big question is: How do you start a portfolio if you’ve never written professionally before? When you’re competing against established writers for work, your blank portfolio isn’t going to look to enticing to prospective clients. First, take a look at a few of these sites designed especially to host writers’ portfolios: portfolio sites.

Content pieces that are suitable for inclusion in your portfolio: press releases, web copy, marketing flyers, posters, blog posts, white papers, academia, even creative work. Imagine yourself as a website owner. What would you look for in a freelance writer? You want someone who can demonstrate an understanding of your field, writing skill, comprehension of grammar, and further than that, a proven ability to convert. Include any positive praise or feedback you have received. If you’re just starting out, that may be from professors, but it will still look good to prospective clients.

Next, work your way through this list to start accumulating your best work to put up on your portfolio:

  • Seek out opportunities to write for friends or colleagues
  • Compile your best academic or personal creative work
  • Write mock copy (content you’ve imagined for your client or a made up company)
  • Write guest blogs or opinion pieces to submit to online magazines (it doesn’t have to be published to include in your portfolio. It just has to be your original work.)
  • Google search pro bono writing jobs and volunteer your writing services

Time to Find Some Clients

Determining what you’re worth is important, and don’t sell yourself short. Heavily research freelance writing rates (definitely talk to your new mentor friends about this too), and establish your rate to start charging.

Get used to asking, “Do you know anyone in need of a good writer?” Also, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out exactly what you want to do and write. Now that you have a portfolio, you can reach out to a client you would love to write for and provide them a link to your portfolio. Even if they don’t respond, it was a worth a shot, and the more direct queries you send out, the more chances you’ll have at getting a positive response.

Don’t forget the usual haunts either. They’re worthwhile venues to check out: Craigslist, Idealist,, LinkedIn, and eLance.

What’s Your Niche?

Eventually, as you take on more and more gigs, you’re going to start learning about yourself as a writer. You’ll become more and more familiar with the types of gigs you like most and which you do best at. Your portfolio is going to start showing a strong inclination toward a particular vein and you can start directing your search for new gigs in that direction as well. Before you know it, you’ll be a specialist in a particular kind of copy.

Raise your rates, advertise yourself as an expert, and start honing in on the advantages of having a specialty niche.

Overnight Success is a Fluke

Freelance writing isn’t going to be your full-time job right out of the chute. You may not even want it to be, but if you do, set realistic expectations for the income you will be making as you start out. Make plans to supplement and then with hard work, allow yourself to grow. Soon enough, your results will be commensurate with your efforts and you’ll find yourself juggling gigs.

In fact, here are a few tips to stay organized, since at this point in your journey, you’ll be an established freelance writer.

What has been your greatest hang-up in your freelance writing journey? Share in the comments!


Hamill, Kate. “So you want to be a freelance writer.” (January 23, 2015.)

What All New Freelance Journalists Need to Know

In previous posts, we covered a few of the essential qualities and tips new freelance writers needs to know and possess in order to be successful. These included:


  • Writing skills
  • Self-editing skills
  • Quick turnaround
  • Job satisfaction


  • Don’t be too proud to ask for help
  • Constantly build your portfolio
  • Make finding new clients a priority
  • Determine a niche and perfect it
  • Don’t expect overnight success

In this post, we’ll talk about a few more things that new freelance writers need to incorporate into their practices and philosophies as they embark on the journey to become established, profitable writers.

Successful blogger and freelance writer Carol Tice offered this advice:

  • Forget about qualifications
  • Find a mentor(s)
  • Write your way into a niche
  • Don’t be scared!
  • Stay focused


As a freelancer, any other qualifications besides experience and ability simply don’t matter. In Tice’s words, “If you can get the story and tell it so we want to read it, you’re in.” No one will hire you for a gig solely because you have a master’s degree, and a master’s degree alone isn’t going to make you feel qualified. Remember that and keep writing, because practice and experience is going to be what gives you the edge in the end.

Find a Mentor

When you make knowledgeable connections, exploit them—in the best way possible! Tap into their expertise, ask questions, and be precocious. It’s the aspiring writer that seeks out and absorbs knowledge that makes it to the finish line.

Write Your Way Into a Niche

If you’re writing what you enjoy, you’re not only expanding on your expertise in that area, but you’re building your portfolio that proves your expertise to prospective clients. Build a strong case for yourself by backing up your experience with previously published work.

Don’t Be Scared!

Tice gives some funny advice: “Think of something scarier than writing an article, and it’ll be a breeze by comparison!” For example, you could be waiting tables instead, so cozy up in front of your computer and do what you love—write! Don’t allow the scope of the assignment daunt you either; just do it and chalk up the results (whether positive or negative) to experience. All experience is positive depending on your perspective.

Stay Focused!

Maintain focus on what you love to do and time will fly. As it passes, your experience will grow. Also,stay organized! As you take on more and more gigs, you’ll need to be in order to be successful.

Any comments on what you’ve done to pave your way as a freelance writer?


Tice, Carol. “The Advice I Wish I’d Had as a New Freelance Writer.” (January 26, 2015.)

Online Writing Tips for the Cool and Adventurous

There are many types of online writing because—even online—there are many types of readers. There are still readers who will read for pleasure (blogs, ebooks, etc.) and for them, long, prosey text is appropriate. But for marketing/sales text, there are a few guidelines you will be wise to follow as you write.

Follow these guidelines to avoid repelling your online browsers and up your chances of converting your readers into buyers of your product or message (this doesn’t just mean spending actual money, but it means persuading your readers to your cause or point of view).

9 Tips to Write Compellingly Online

  1. Pay special attention to headlines
  2. State your main point first
  3. Keep paragraphs short
  4. Convert any type of series into a list, bulleted or numbered
  5. Parallel lists only
  6. Online copy can be personal; use I, you, and we
  7. Use active, not passive, voice
  8. To exude authority, use the imperative
  9. Use hyperlinks, bolded text, and italics to highlight important keywords and phrases.


Your readers will scan this first before reading anything else, so pretending that the headline is all they’ll read, what information do you want them to walk away with? This information should be in the headline.

Give Your Main Point Priority

Don’t lollygag when you’re getting to your main point. Your readers won’t have the patience to wait. Jump right into the meat of your post and starting talking about what’s important.

No Long Paragraphs

You want your page to be both scannable and welcoming. Blocky paragraphs are intimidating and unattractive to your busy readers. If you keep your paragraphs short and palatable, you won’t go wrong.

Use Lists!

If you find yourself list out anything in a sentence, convert to an actual list to make it more scannable. The eyes love consuming lists so give your readers what they like to look at. Keep your lists parallel.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal

You only want to avoid informally addressing your readers if you’re writing something official or academic, and even then there may be exceptions. Think about what’s appropriate for your audience and make the call on your own. They are after all, your audience.

Be Active

The passive voice is a drag and has a tendency to get boring. Don’t get stuck using phrases like “Mistakes were made” or “a fire was started.” What this does is remove the subject of the sentence and introduces ambiguity. Keep your text direct.

Exude Authority

Use the imperative to create an impression of authority and action. This means giving commands and writing with confidence.

Highlight Important Text

Italicize, bold, or better yet, hyperlink your keywords and other important phrases that you want to stick out to your readers. The hyperlinks should go to related posts on content on your site or blog.


Questions or comments? Drop a line in the comments below!


Nordquist, Richard. “Twelve Tips for Improving Online Writing.” (January 30, 2015.)

Why Freelancing is Great for Stay-at-Home Parents

The allure of freelancing is generally freedom, right? You get to set your schedule, handpick your projects, and work from anywhere with an Internet connection. The world is your oyster! As a parent, these same benefits can come in especially handy when you’re juggling the rigmarole of child-rearing with the tedium of income-earning.

As you’re fine-tuning your freelancing game plan, here are a few other benefits you may not have even considered yet.

Perks of Freelancing for Parents!

  1. Keeps you sharp
  2. Breaks up the monotony
  3. Great writing practice for larger goals
  4. Creates a versatile and prolific portfolio

Stay Mentally Fit

Many mothers, and even fathers, who spend the bulk of their days alone with the kids struggle with what has been termed “mommy brain.” Even daddies can develop “mommy brain” if they’re the ones assuming the stay-at-home parenting role. There’s more to “mommy brain” than simply the changes your mind and body undergo when there’s a human developing inside of it. It has to do with lack of mental stimulus that can occur when you’re interacting regularly with infant and toddler-aged lifeforms. You’re not exactly being challenged mentally and before you know it, you’ve been reduced to their level.

Freelancing gives you a way to work out your articulation skills as well as your vocabulary. It also gives you an outlet for goal setting and the reward of reaching those goals.

Do Away With Monotony

Depending on your portfolio, areas of specialty, and interests, your freelancing projects are going to be varied and diverse, giving you an exciting outlet for your creativity. You will also begin to make connections with other like-minded professionals as you network and join forums and groups. This will give you a sense of community and social interaction that you will often have to do without during long stretches of time as a stay-at-home parent.

Beginner Steps

Many writers and authors start out with freelancing as they work on their larger goals of authorship or screenwriting. What this does is give you the chance to hone your craft. Words are your tool and how well you wield it depends entirely on the amount of practice you’ve had with it. Write, write, write, and your big writing dreams will become more and more attainable as your skills grow to match them.

You’re a parent now, and that may have been one of your dreams as well, but you don’t have to accept that it must be your only dream.

Build that Awesome Portfolio

Be flexible in the projects you take on. The highest paying may not be the most enjoyable, but you’ll need to take them on to keep bread on the table, but throw in some varied gigs that will excite and entertain you. Not only will this flesh out your portfolio, but it will give you something to look forward to or distract yourself with when you require a break from those harder, less enjoyable projects.


Overall, it’s a great boon to parents to have creative and productive outlets away from the task of parenthood. Many have found that to split their time gives them more satisfaction in the professional world as well as the domestic. You will all-around be a better mother or father as well as a better freelance writer. Enjoy!

We’d love to hear how you’ve handled freelancing and parenthood. How has it been the most satisfying or frustrating? Share in the comments!


Carpenter, Courtney. “Balancing Motherhood with Writing: The Benefits of Freelancing.” (February 6, 2015.)